Six days after it landed in Texas, the record-breaking tropical storm Harvey continues to wreak havoc on the state. At least one quarter of Harris County, which includes Houston, is flooded. Thirty deaths, and dozens of injuries, have been reported so far. But amidst the devastation and tragedy, Texans have found a symbol of hope and resilience in a 1000-year-old oak tree, which was not felled by Harvey’s wrath.
As Natasha Frost reports for Atlas Obscura, the Big Tree, as the oak is known, remains firmly rooted in the ground at Goose Island State Park near Rockport. Texas Parks and Wildlife posted a photo of the tree to its Facebook page on August 28. The image shows the grassy grounds of the park littered with toppled trees and fragmented branches. But the centuries-old, gnarled Big Tree appears to stand relatively unscathed.
The Big Tree is technically the second-oldest oak tree alive in the United States—the oldest one is located in nearby Brazoria County—but it has taken on a special significance for locals. “As a fifth generation Texan and a resident of Rockport I can't help but feel pride,” one commenter, Tommy Lyons, wrote under the Facebook post. “That big oak is a symbol of Texans everywhere we bend but we don't break.”
Throughout its many years, the Big Tree has weathered flood, fires, wind, and drought. According to Frost, the oak survived a Civil War battle that razed the town of Lamar, where the tree is located. It did not perish during a drought in 2011, which required firefighters to douse the oak with thousands of gallons of water. And, as Texas Monthly reports, the Big Tree has stood tall through at least forty hurricanes.
In its Facebook post, Texas Parks and Wildlife summed up locals’ characterization of the Big Tree. “The 1000-year-old Big Tree at Goose Island State Park near Rockport is okay!” the caption on the photo reads. “Some younger trees are down. You don't get old by being weak.”